University Students, Staff Join Community for MLK Day of Service

Volunteers gathering to raise funds for homeless, share oral histories and more

Martin Luther King Day of Service 2016 brought local families and students together for a family-friendly event benefiting Doors of Hope Transition Ministries and Boys and Girls Club of Oxford. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students, staff and community partners are spearheading efforts to promote community engagement and encourage healthy lifestyles during 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances.

The Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service opening ceremony is set for 10:30 a.m. Jan. 16 at the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center. Program participants include Chancellor Jeffery Vitter; Katrina Caldwell, UM vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion; Oxford Mayor George G. Patterson; and Jeff Busby, president of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors.

Brian Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies and a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina, will deliver the keynote address.

As part of the ceremony, awards will be presented to outstanding LOU volunteers in two categories. Community member recipients are Daniel Doyle, Jacelyn Frierson, Laura Shields and Joan Vick. Lyndsey Acree of Olive Branch is the student recipient.

“The Office of the Dean of Students is proud to work, once again, side-by-side with so many excellent community partners,” said Hal Sullivan, UM coordinator of student affairs programs. “Our goal, in the spirit of Dr. King, is to encourage reflection (and) action and redefine ‘service’ for this community.”

Other activities scheduled are:

  • 9 a.m. – A community pancake breakfast at Second Baptist Church
  • 10:30 a.m. – Opening ceremony and presentation of service awards at Burns-Belfry. Living history community stories also will be available for public listening. These testimonials, collected by trained VISTAs, help illustrate what life was like for north Mississippians during the civil rights movement. A diverse group of volunteers each will share their personal, unique perspectives, and a small group of these stories will be available for public listening at the ceremony.
  • 1:30 p.m. – Community showing of “Selma” at the Oxford Conference Center. A conversation about the film, hosted by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, follows.
  • Community give-back night for Interfaith Compassion Ministries benefiting the Oxford Housing Authority. At Chili’s from 5 to 10 p.m. and at Chick-fil-A from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • 5:30 p.m. – Legacy Celebration at Second Baptist Church. Charles Ross, UM professor of history and director of African-American studies, is the speaker.

UM staff involved in planning MLK Day of Service events expressed enthusiasm about participating in such a worthy cause.

“VISTA members of the North Mississippi VISTA Project have created civil rights lessons for students in Oxford and Lafayette County schools to learn about living leaders who made great movements right here in Mississippi,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute.

“Through a letter writing project, we hope to express gratitude to civil rights leaders who continue their work to this day. We are also excited about our community stories oral history project, which will lift up local leaders and strengthen community partnerships.”

Volunteer Oxford Director Kaitlin Wilkinson said community and campus participation are crucial to the success of the service observance.

“This national day of service honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and commitment to transforming our nation through service to others,” she said. “The LOU MLK Day of Service offers community members a chance to engage in a variety of volunteer opportunities that are designed to give back to the community.”

Executive director of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network, Doyle began his formal role as a volunteer and service member in Mississippi Teacher Corps 11 years ago. He is also a volunteer for Sustainable Oxford, Organic Mothers, Good Food for Oxford Schools, Mississippi Farm to School Network and the Boys and Girls Club.

A senior at Oxford High School, Frierson is actively involved in Girl Scouts, where for the past 13 years she has walked dogs, collected food for the Pantry, visited veterans, made cards for the elderly, read to children, collected books for summer reading, sewed dolls for hospital patients and wrapped gifts at the Christmas Store. She is also president of the African-American History Club at OHS and plays in the Chargers marching band.

A graduate of Harding University, Shields splits her time volunteering for Volunteer Oxford, the American Red Cross, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi and the Pantry, and coordinating all digital content and social media for the Oxford Church of Christ. She has helped multiple organizations with social media sites, data collection, compiling research and website assistance.

A retiree, Vick volunteers at RSVP and has given her time to Area 4 Special Olympics, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, the American Red Cross, Double Decker Arts Festival, Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Love Packs, Lafayette County-Oxford Chamber of Commerce, Yocona International Folk Festival and Good Food for Oxford Schools. She is also the mother of five children.

A senior dietetics and nutrition major, Acree is on the Ole Miss track and field team. Her commitment to service for both athletics and the community have included Reading with the Rebels at local elementary schools, Trunk-or-Treat Halloween event, Books and Bears distribution for UM workers, Thanksgiving Adopt-a-Basket collection, Walking Wednesdays at Oxford Elementary, Senior Lifestyle events at the Oxford YMCA, Food Day Festival and Market on campus and Fresh Fruit Fridays at Della Davidson Elementary School.

For more information about LOU MLK Day of Service events, contact Hal Sullivan at or Kaitlin Wilkinson at